5 Ways to Lower Your Odds of Getting Lice

You’ve never had lice and want to make sure it stays that way. Head lice is very common among kids between ages 3 and 11. If you’re a parent, teacher, or caregiver of a child this age, lice are more likely to find their way into your home.

You can have lice and not yet know it. Lice eggs (nits) are very hard to see and may not cause itching at first. It’s not always possible to keep these mites away, but you can take a few simple steps to reduce your risk. Here are five things to know about preventing lice.

1. Watch Your Head

Lice crawl onto the body. They can’t fly or jump. They most often spread with head-to-head contact. That means you usually must be close to someone with lice to catch it. Avoid activities that involve hair-to-hair contact as much as possible.

2. It's Nice to Share, But Not Always

That hat on the store rack might look tempting and make for a great selfie, but think twice before you try it on. You can get lice if you share hats, hoodies, towels, beds, and pillows with someone who has or recently had it. Sometimes, lice spread on combs and brushes. Such “shared contact” is uncommon, but can happen. Lice can live for about a day or two after falling off the body. To prevent lice, never share things that touch the head.

3. Don’t Lend an Ear

Lice don’t often live on hard surfaces like plastic, but they can sometimes hang out on ear buds for a short time. To lower your risk of catching them, don’t share headphones at home or at the gym.

4. Avoid the Comfy Couch

It might be nice to sit on the plush sofa at the doctor’s office or library, but ask yourself this: Who sat there before you? Lice or lice eggs (nits) can live for about 48 hours on upholstered furniture and rugs. A safer bet is a wooden or plastic chair. Stuffed animals are a hideaway for lice, too.

5. Do Your Laundry

Worried you may have been around someone with lice? Lice die when exposed to temperatures greater than 128.3°F for 5 or more minutes. Prevent a lice outbreak by tossing your clothing, hat, jacket, scarf, gloves, and any other items into the washer. Use hot water (130° F or higher), and then dry on high heat. Soak your combs and brushes in the wash, too. Can’t wash an item? Place it in a plastic bag and put it in the freezer for 3 weeks.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Stephanie S. Gardner, MD on March 08, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

American Academy of Dermatology: “Head Lice.”

CDC: “Prevention and Control,” "Epidemiology & Risk Factors,” “Treatment.”

FDA: “Treating Head Lice.”

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